Viral fund-raising

In a post about charitable fund-raising several weeks ago, I stated, “so far no advisory committee has issued a formal, public opinion on whether judges may participate in the viral ice bucket challenge that has raised so much money for ALS research.” That changed recently with an opinion from the Maryland Judicial Ethics Committee advising that a judge may participate in the ice bucket challenge but only if it is clear that the judge is acting in a personal capacity.

Thus, the committee stated, when a friend specifically identifies the judge by title and the court on which he sits, a judge may not accept the challenge by dousing himself in ice and posting a recording on a social media web-site. However, the committee noted a judge may make a donation in response to the challenge and inform his challenger without using social media or publicly challenging others.

The committee also advised that a judge may respond to a challenge by a family member or friend that does not disclose her office if she exercises care not to disclose her judicial status or permit others to do so, refrains from inappropriate use of court premises or resources, and does not coerce others or take action that would reasonably be perceived as coercive.

Finally, the committee stated that, although a judge may solicit contributions from “judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority,” that exception does not include a public challenge issued via social media, which would be accessible not only to the judges’ on-line “contacts, but potentially, to thousands of people within the social network.”

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